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Power
A Complete G-Men Novel

Featuring Dan Fowler
ACE OF THE F. B. I.

by C. K. M. Scanlon

 The Seeds of War are Planted by a Diabolical Criminal Who Brazenly Defies Humanity 

CHAPTER I
Eternal Mission

THE steam yacht Oro Del Mar nosed eastward through the black void, its white prow splitting the dark waters of the Gulf. A gleaming row of lighted port-holes paled the phosphorescent fire of the roiled waters. Over the still air came the mournful toll of a buoy marker.

Capitan Esteban Garcia stirred restlessly on the glass-inclosed bridge and looked aft to where the official flag of the Republic of Parazilla stood straight in the breeze behind the fast-running boat.

Throughout this entire trip the estimable and efficient Capitan Garcia had displayed that flag of as proud a country as South America could boast. Days, of course. And nights, as well!

Up the west coast of South America ...through the Panama Canal... on along the coast of Hondagua in Central America.

And now, as the Oro Del Mar churned a mid- channel course that took it unerringly for Key West, Florida, the good captain frowned, uncrossed his braid-banded sleeves from over his chest. He leaned forward to listen, his head cocked attentively and his dark eyes flashing in the dim light of the navigation bridge.

Standing to the left of the steersman, the chief mate understood the unspoken question of his superior.

"The channel marker, on the right," he said in his soft, Spanish speech. "It is but a matter of hours now, mi capitan."

The mate, sturdier, calmer of eye and manner than his chief, moved to stand nearer Garcia. The Oro Del Mar's skipper shuddered slightly as the keening of the buoy's bell came louder, seemed to intensify its doleful, melancholy toll.

"Por Dios. I shall not regret when we have reached our port! With so important a man as Don Pedro a passenger—and affairs of the world as tense as they are—" He broke off, slight beads of perspiration making shiny the blur that was his face.

THE mate's face was stolid; but interest showed in the eyes that he turned on his superior.

"But, mi capitan—of what use to worry now?" He shrugged his own unconcern, his man- of-the-sea confidence in himself and in the ship. "De veras—indeed, it is not one's first such journey."

Garcia reached a hand up to tug nervously at his mustache.

"From the first," he confided in a low voice, "misgivings have been heavy on my mind. El Jefe Dyaz himself came to me, himself said, 'Esteban Garcia! It is I—your jefe—who warn you to be on guard at all moments! On the safe deliverance of Don Pedro to the United States rest affairs so great that I—I, myself, dare not consider what the consequences might be!'" The man took a deep breath. "Those were the words of El Jefe Dyaz to me!"

The mate blinked. "En verdad—In truth, mi capitan, there are those who speak of peculiar affairs since the Great One in Europe has made himself to be interested. But, since the day has passed when one could be anything but a Dyachista—"

"Silencio!" Captain Garcia hissed. He slid his eyes covertly to see if the steersman were listening. But the sailor, a mestizo whose high cheek bones, wide, flat face and narrow eyes marked him for the South American-Indian half-breed that he was, was staring woodenly ahead. Then, as if repeating a formula long rehearsed:

"There is but one jefe, and that is El Jefe— Dyaz!"

The mate repeated it after his captain, mechanically. He stepped back to his former post near the steersman, his eyes narrowed, watchful, peering into that dark void for which the yacht speared.

After about ten minutes he tensed slightly, leaned forward and peered through the glassed-in bridge, to the left in the direction of land.

"Mi, capitan," he spoke softly, but with a jolt in his words, "do I mistake when I say that I see lights bearing this way?"

Garcia trained his night glasses in the direction indicated. He lowered them after a moment, his face taut.

"Full speed," he snapped crisply. "Bear slightly to the right. Turn the searchlight—the small one—aft, to shine on our Parazillan official flag. Order all hands to stand by, under arms. Man the machine-gun!"

"Si, mi capitan."

* * * * *

In the great saloon amidships the Oro Del Mar, Don Pedro Mario Cortez del Val y Llantanao sat stiffly erect in a thronelike, high-backed chair and stroked his white goatee with a slender, aristocratic hand. His white hair shone silkily in the soft glow of the indirect lighting. Brown eyes that were mellow, kindly, were focused on the sleekly dark youth who sat behind a small table opposite him, a table that was littered with papers.

Don Pedro was attired in formal evening dress, a sash of brilliant color accentuating the snowy-white perfection of his stiffly starched shirt. The young man opposite him was wearing a dinner jacket, with black tie, and in his button hole was. the colorful bud that signified a high decoration.

But there was no sign of such an honor relieving the severe black of Don Pedro's lapel. For lesser men it was, to wear marks of distinction. It was distinction enough to be Don Pedro Mario Cortez del Val y Llantanao—to be of the great Cortez family at all.

Take all of such marks away—take away the sash that marked him "Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary"—the impeccably-cut evening clothes and the costly materials of which they were made—take away the enviable title Don, even. It was still a Cortez who sat here—moreover, a Cortez del Val y Llantanao.

WHEN he spoke, his voice was low, rich, musical. "Digo que si, Carlos. I say yes. My mission shall succeed—must succeed." He paused, determination kindling a fire in his eyes. "It is the will of God that the Americas remain amistoso— friendly."

Carlos Agramonte, secretary to Parazilla's richest and most famous citizen, smiled weakly.

"Si, Excelencia. But the gringos, they can be hard people, si?"

"Ay, ay!" Don Pedro chided with a censuring forefinger. "Alas, Carlos, that a diplomat speak disparagingly even before he enters into the conferences which, it is hoped, will accomplish so much for our amistad. Read to me the arrangements upon our landing at Key West."

"Si, Excelencia." The diplomat's secretary took a small, leather-bound memo-book, read from it rapidly. "A special airplane will conduct your excellency and my humble self to Washington, to the gringo capital. We—"

"Be careful, Carlos!" Don Pedro interrupted, a slight chill in his tone.

Agramonte blushed. "Perdoneme Ud., Excelencia." He continued quickly, reading from the book. "An airplane will conduct us to the American capital, and we shall be met and driven to the Parazillan Embassy. It is doubtful that sleep will be permitted for tomorrow," the secretary explained, looking up. "We arrive late and fly five hours."

The statesman dismissed the matter with a negligible wave of his hand.

"Continue, Carlos."

"Conference with Embajador Julio Mercante after breakfast at the Embassy. Conference with Senor Jay B. Marshton, the banker, at ten o'clock in the morning—also at the Embassy. Conferences with Raimondo Correro, Parazillan newspaper publisher, with Senor Cort Rappleyea, of the American State Department, with Senor Gray Burbury, banker and ship owner, as time permits— after the Marshton conference."

Don Pedro nodded. "And, if necessary, conferences with—the President of the United States!" He considered a moment, then smiled slightly. "All is quite in order, Carlos. It gives me pleasure to say that you are a most efficient secretary. Most efficient!"

Young Agramonte flushed with pleasure. "Gracias, Excelencia."

Both men looked at one another inquiringly when the steady vibration of the boat increased suddenly. Don Pedro swayed forward slightly in his chair as the craft altered its course abruptly.

The statesman's eyes were thoughtful a moment before he eased them in another gentle smile.

"A fisherman, perhaps, who gets in the way. Who knows, Carlos, but that it is the President of the United States himself, who is the cause of our altering the course? You remember, it was said over the wireless that he fished for a few days, in Florida waters? At this very moment?"

"Let us hope not!" the young secretary said devoutly.

Don Pedro's smile widened and his eyes glinted with subdued humor.

"Ah, but let up hope it will be, Carlos—let us hope that it will be the President of the United States, if necessary—who shall cause us to alter the course of our ship—" he paused, added almost under his breath—"our Ship of State!"

Agramonte gathered up the papers before him, thrust them into a brief case, and snapped shut the small but strong lock on it. He rose and walked to a small safe whose door stood ajar. He put the dispatch case away carefully, closed the door, twirled the combination dial.

He straightened up suddenly, his eyes on the companionway that led up to the deck. From nearby came a hoarse shout, then a high, long, hail.

"Ahoy, Oro Del Mar," were the words that reached them through one of the opened, screened ports. "Heave to! United States Coast Guard wants to come aboard!"

There was instant and voluble chattering from the men on the deck of the Oro Del Mar with the officers on the bridge. Don Pedro motioned to Agramonte.

"Go see what is wanted," he directed him. "It is probably an escort which has been sent us." Agramonte nodded and quickly went out.

CHAPTER II
"Diplomatic Immunity"

DON PEDRO'S secretary blinked his eyes into the beam that was directed at the deck of the ship. He raised his hand and pointed to the ensign that fluttered from the stern of the yacht.

"Parazillan envoy on official business," he shouted, in good English. "Key West is our destination. We do not need help. Thank you!"

He could see the other boat now. It was a small coastal patrol boat, with two guns, mounted one fore and one aft. What appeared to be its full crew—some half dozen men—manned the deck on the near side. One of them, wearing a white cap with officer's insignia, answered him through a megaphone.

"We know all about it," he said curtly. "Heave to! Government orders!"

Agramonte frowned and was about to argue the matter; but Don Pedro had heard, had ascended to the deck. The envoy bowed slightly to the man in charge of the Coast Guard boat.

"This is indeed unusual," he said in his rich, musical voice and superb English. "But—since we are your guests—" He relayed the order to Captain Garcia, on the bridge.

The Oro Del Mar's screws stopped turning and it glided silently a moment, then churned into reverse. The Coast Guard craft came alongside and made fast. Its commander disdained seeing the ladder being lowered for his use from the higher deck of the yacht.

One of the gobs hooked a boarding ladder to the rail of the Oro Del Mar and the officer went up it agilely, followed by three of his men. Two others, in the conventional dark-blue working garb and dark, pull-down knitted hats of United States sailors, manned the machine-guns.

The man in officer's uniform wore a service automatic in the holster strapped to his leg. He was a tall man—a full two inches over six feet, dwarfing the envoy and his secretary.

"Who's in charge here?" His eyes rested on Agramonte, then shifted to Don Pedro, took in his sashed, white shirt-bosom. "You?"

"I," the diplomat answered slowly, "am Don Pedro Cortez del Val y Llantanao, Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary from the Republic of Parazilla. What can I do for you, sir?"

"Oh." The officer blinked, seemed to consider the matter a moment. He saluted briefly, then came to the point. "Sorry, sir," he said, his voice not in the slightest sorry, "but we have orders to stop you and search for certain contraband reported to be aboard."

"What?" Don Pedro's eyes went round. "This is—unheard of! I, sir, am a diplomat accredited to a mission of peace in your waters—a mission of eternal peace between our countries. Do you understand"—he dropped his eyes to the gold stripes on the man's arms—"Lieutenant?"

The officer stared long and steadily. He shifted his weight, his eyes taking in the armed sailors on the Oro Del Mar.

"I understand my orders," be said tersely, when he spoke again. "And I can't help it if your mission is eternal, or infernal, or what it is. I have orders to search this ship, and she's going to be searched. Get it?"

DON PEDRO flushed and an angry light came into his eyes. Agramonte cursed softly in Spanish and moved forward. But the envoy stopped him.

"Carlos! Stop! My mission, as I have said, is one of peace. These men shall be permitted their outrageous request." He swung to the officer again. "I wish your name and command, Lieutenant. And I warn you that you shall answer for this!"

The Guard officer nodded. "Lieutenant Guy S. Dobsen, Key West Station. Commanding Guard Patrol Number Naught-four-one-two." He thumbed at the numerals visible on the side of the boat that had swung clear to cover the decks of the Oro Del Mar. "Take 'em down if you want, on paper." His eyes narrowed at the arms the Parazillan sailors held at ready.

"Tell your men to ground their arms," he snapped. "The United States Navy isn't used to having ordnance shoved under its nose. Not in its own waters!"

Don Pedro gave the command in a low, flat voice. The American officer nodded his head in the direction of the stacked rifles on the deck.

"You, Curry—take charge of those rifles. Pass them to Norris, on the boat. When we're through, we can return 'em."

Agramonte proved the efficient secretary still. He had whipped out a notebook, was writing in it. The Yank officer ignored him.

"Hart!"

"Yes, Lieutenant Dobsen."

"Strip the deck guns of all ammo. Throw that over to the boat, too. Then frisk the men for small arms."

"Yes, Lieutenant Dobsen." The gob did his job swiftly, tossed his find across the narrow gap of water and into a net that was propped in readiness off the deck of the patrol boat.

Don Pedro's face was pale, his eyes burning. "Are you quite ready to explain what it is you are looking for, Lieutenant?"

"Dope."

The diplomat staggered and raised a hand to his heart. Agramonte steadied him.

"Dope," the envoy muttered. "Ah, what a serious thing it is you are doing, sir! This is an insult that I cannot brook!"

"No?" The American officer stepped over and before the statesman knew what he was about he had patted his pockets expertly. He searched Agramonte, also.

"Everybody below deck," he snapped, motioning to the crew with his hand. When they didn't move quickly enough to suit him, he slid his .45 Navy automatic out and handled it carelessly. It did the trick.

Back in the saloon, Don Pedro made his way to his chair, seated himself with dignity and composure.

"You men will remain quiet until our hosts have satisfied themselves that they have made an error." His eyes glittered with a fury that he couldn't altogether suppress. "But nothing will alter the consequences of this—this affront!"

The Yank officer was boredly efficient. "Curry and Hart—search the crew quarters, then the sleeping cabins." He swung to Agramonte. "Open that safe in the corner, please."

"Par Dios, no!" the secretary gasped. "Papers of state are there, Lieutenant. I assure you that is all. You can no more violate that safe than you could—than you could our Parazillan Treasury!"

"Open!" Don Pedro commanded in a low voice, "Open, Carlos!"

"Si Exceleacia, " the youth hissed. His eyes were raging when he stooped, twirled the dial, opened the safe door. The Naval officer stared in, reached and pulled out the briefcase, saw the lock.

"Unlock this."

"No!" Don Pedro snapped. "Seal the safe, if you wish, with that case in it, and leave a man to guard it until we shall land. But—it is not to be opened. Not if—"

THE Coast Guardsman had the thing in his hand, was whacking at the little lock with the butt end of his .45 service automatic. He jostled Agramonte aside when the youngster jumped to stop him.

"Lay off that," he snapped. "One more move like that one and I'll fix you so you won't interfere again!"

The lock broke, fell to the carpeted floor. The officer jerked the papers out, shook them apart, threw them onto the table. He examined the interior of the leather dispatch case carefully, scanned the thing for hidden pockets or recesses.

"This is clear," he said smoothly, passing it back to the secretary.

The Parazilans were silent, white-faced. A ship's clock tinkled musically on the table. The American officer blinked, stared at it.

"One bell, on the night watch," he mused. "That's twelve-thirty at night, to you landlubbers. Hmm! Pretty funny time for a diplomat to be docking."

"I dock where I wish and when I wish," Don Pedro said shortly. "I do not hold my movements or actions accountable to a sailor."

The Yank shrugged. "It's okay with me," he said flatly. "Just so long as you don't try to dock with any dope aboard. I've got my duty to perform, and I'll—" He broke off as a shout of triumph, then a tramp of feet sounded outside the saloon. The two gobs came into view, each carrying a small, tightly wrapped and sealed package. One of them patted his find grimly.

"Where'd you find those?"

"One of the main cabins, sir." He upended the thing, showed the hole he had torn in the wrappings. Stacks of small, square tins were revealed. He passed the lieutenant one of the tins that he had taken out, and was now carrying in his band. "It's 'snow,' sir."

The American officer pried the top of the thing off, blinked at the white powder inside, then sniffed it cautiously. He turned to Don Pedro and Agramonte, his eyes hard.

"This does it, gentlemen!"

The Parazillan diplomat shook his head uncomprehendingly.

"But—but I have never before seen those packages, Lieutenant. Never! I do not understand!"

"You stopped at the port of Calaya, in Hondagua—Central America?"

"But, yes. For a matter of several hours, and purchased some gifts for my friends in the United States."

"Customs check them? Did they check your purchases?"

"Certainly not!" His lips curved in an ironic smile. "In civilized countries, my good Lieutenant, diplomatic privileges are observed."

The officer stuck the tin in his hip pocket; but it fell to the floor, bursting open. He ignored it.

"These are a few presents that your friends won't get, when you arrive in the United States," he said drily. "Not unless they call on you in jail, and the authorities are suckers enough to give the stuff back to you." He smiled tightly. "Diplomatic immunity, eh?"

Don Pedro's eyes were incredulous. "But— you mean?" He broke off, swallowed visibly, waved his hands helplessly. "You cannot mean you think I had knowledge of this? My dear fellow, I—"

The American officer was impatient. "Tell it to the authorities," he snapped. "I have my orders. You're under arrest, Don Pedro! Come with me!"

CHAPTER III
Peace—and War!

THE Parazillan envoy lost all semblance of control. He came to his feet with a volley of imprecations pouring from his white lips.

"You insolent dog! Get off my ship this moment. This moment! You hear?

Make your report to your gringo authorities, and take with you those packages. But leave my ship!"

The Coast Guard officer slid his automatic out of its holster again. "You, Curry and Hart—take him along. I'll keep these men covered. Slam him onto our boat, and put him in irons if he doesn't sit still."

The proud blood of a thousand years pounded fiercely in the veins of Don Pedro. He moved quickly to the desk, opened it, took out a revolver and placed it on the table.

"You have flouted the flag of my country, sir. You have insulted me. You have violated the sacredness of State papers and documents. But you will not take me from this ship—from what is technically Parazillan territory—without armed resistance!" He paused, every muscle in his body trembling with the rage that was in him.

"Should you or your men make one move to take me, should you so much as put a hand on me —I shall shoot to kill!"

The, Yank officer might not have heard, for all the effect it had on him.

"Snap into it, men. Look alive! Didn't you hear my order?"

The gobs moved swiftly. And so did Don Pedro. He reached out a slender hand, grasped the revolver, started to bring it up. The Navy officer shook his head sadly, almost, put pressure on his trigger finger.

Three shots crashed deafeningly in the low- ceilinged confines of the place. Acrid smoke curled from the snout of the American officer's gun. A dull, stupefied silence fell over those others in the room as Don Pedro was slammed back and across the desk by the sheer force of the slugs that blasted his sash-decorated bosom.

The Parazillan sailors looked on woodenly, impassively. The officers in the place blinked their eyes, stared as if uncomprehendingly from the American officer to the envoy who was struggling to push himself erect from the desk.

"Madre de Dios," Agramonte choked, his eyes bulging.

Even the American gobs seemed stunned by the thing, their eyes wide, their faces blank. The envoy's secretary forced his paralyzed nerves to act, forced his legs to step forward, to carry him stiffly, mechanically, to his master's side.

"Don Pedro!" he whispered brokenly. "Por Dios, Don Pedro, you are not-not-?" He couldn't bring himself to finish it. Nor could he move for the moment as Don Pedro tried again to sit up, slid off the desk and fell to the carpet. An ugly pool of crimson formed under his left arm, spread in an ever widening, dark blotch on the light-colored material of the flooring.

THE American officer bit his lip uncertainly. "Curry! Take two of these sailors with you to drop anchor. You, Hart—radio an emergency ashore." Then, when the man had started, "No! Hold it a minute!"

He considered in a silence that was broken only by the stertorous breathing of the envoy. Agramonte was bending over Don Pedro, was now lifting him gently, propping the stricken diplomat against the side of the desk. The man's shirt front was torn raggedly and a steady stream of blood was pulsing down it.

The Navy man moved. "Just drop anchor for the Oro Del Mar. Take those packages of dope aboard the patrol boat. I'll come aboard her in a few minutes. Then we'll radio for an emergency boat to come out here and take over. Better still— we'll radio and make for shore to file our report."

He tapped Agramonte on the shoulder, spoke his instructions slowly, distinctly.

"Those are orders," he said. "You are not to weigh anchor until one of our sea patrol boats stands by and gives orders for it. Understand?"

Agramonte's eyes were dazed, uncomprehending. Captain Garcia nodded his head, spoke with the horror that was in him.

"I—onnerstan'," he said brokenly.

The Navy officer's eyes were hard. "See that you remember," he snapped. "One move of this boat to get away and we'll blast it clear out of the water. Let's go, men!"

*   *   *   *   *

Don Pedro was stretched out on the divan of the main saloon, his face drawn and white, his white goatee flecked with the blood that was spraying from his shrunken lips with every gasp of his breath.

Captain Garcia and his men were gathered in a silent huddle behind the dying man's head. The young secretary, Agramonte, knelt at Don Pedro's side, his eyes full of many things.

"Are you in pain, Excelencia?"

The man's breathing stilled a moment. His rapidly filming eyes moved, rested without recognition on his secretary.

"I ... come for ... peace," he murmured. "For ... peace, amigos!"

Agramonte turned his head. "Capitan Garcia. It is how long now since the murdering gringos departed?" There was hatred in his voice, his eyes, his taut face.

Garcia looked at the clock. "It is not yet two o'clock," he said. "I should say, perhaps close to an hour and a half, they left us."

"So! You will order your radio man above deck, send a call for help—to the Parazillan Government! You will say, 'The Oro Del Mar was halted by a United States Navy boat, its envoy brutally shot and dying, that we are helpless to move under threat of gunfire by the gringo navy.' You will say—" He paused. Don Pedro was speaking...

"I come for peace," the rapidly fading man was whispering. "And—I have found... peace!"

The envoy struggled to catch his breath, moved his hand as if to ease the rattling that started in his throat. His hand came halfway up, paused— then fell lifelessly to his side again.

Don Pedro lay utterly still, his glazed eyes filled with an understanding that was beyond the ken of living man. The illustrious descendant of an illustrious family bed joined his ancestors in their Hall of Honor.

Don Pedro Mario Cortex del Val y Llantanao was dead—his 'eternal mission of peace' realized.

AT the Key West Coast Guard basin, the radio operator stirred and sat erect at the signal that flashed on his board. He yawned, stretched, looked at the U. S. Naval Observatory clock on the wall. He reached for his pencil, pulled an official message pad close.

He was bored when he said, "Go ahead, Naught-four-one-two. What you got this time—a couple of drunken sponge fisherman? Or a bunch of landlubbers running without lights?"

He listened a moment, blinked his eyes, pinched himself. "Huh? Come again! And don't kid me, this time. You say you stopped the Oro Del Mar, the Parazillan yacht, and—what?"

The man listened, wrote mechanically for a minute, then dropped his pencil and stared open- mouthed at the board in front of him.

"You're reporting to the basin immediately.... Right—I got it." He snapped the key closed, sat stiffly in his chair. His lips moved, but it was a full minute before they could say anything.

"War!" he whispered in awe as his chair scraped back.

* * * * *

The skeleton force on duty at the State Department in Washington rubbed their eyes and stared at the young Assistant Secretary who jumped for a telephone.

"I wouldn't call the Secretary at this time," one of the crew ventured. "Unless—" He paused, blinked at what he saw in the other's eyes. "Is it very important?"

"War!" was the whispered answer he got.

* * * * *

The radio man at the Navy Department offices nodded grimly to the orders of a disheveled admiral, snapped words into the mouthpiece of his set.

"Destroyer three-six-three—proceed at full steam to Parazillan State boat, Oro Del Mar, position—" He rattled off the latitude and longitude given him. Then: "Place heavy guard around Key West Coast Guard basin. All officers and men of patrol boat Naught-four-one-two are to be placed under arrest, aboard boat. Got it?"

"War!" he grunted, as the harried admiral raced for another office.

* * * * *

At the F.B.I. offices in the great building on Pennsylvania Avenue, the night operator turned to the Director of the famed manhunters.

"Inspector Fowler has his orders, sir: 'Drop all personal work on Exdine case ... report Washington Headquarters immediately.'"

"And? Where is Dan Fowler now?"

"Speeding to the Cincinnati airport, sir. A special plane is waiting for him there." The man scratched his head, considered risking the wrath of the famous Director. "Must be something extra important, sir?"

"Murder on the high seas," the head of the F.B.I. clipped out savagely. "Improper seizure of a foreign government's property—ruthless disregard of diplomatic immunity—violation of all international ethics—and murder of the Parazillan Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary—by the United States Navy!" He smiled grimly. "There's a shorter word for it....

"War!"

CHAPTER IV
A Nation's Honor

O NTO the great building on Pennsylvania Avenue, in Washington, that houses the Department of Justice strode a tall, powerfully muscled man whose rugged, irregular features and steely gray eyes were known with fear and awe by a thousand big-time crooks.

His conservative, well-cut gray suit was molded to broad, muscle-sheathed shoulders and chest, but hung at loose ease over his flat, washboard belly and slim hips. His faultlessly pressed trousers couldn't hide the bulge of muscle of his column-like legs, and his shoes, of soft, tough leather, seemed impelled by hidden springs. A snap-brim hat of gray felt was pulled low over his forehead, as if he wished to hide his identity.

But respectful voices acknowledged his progress down the long inside hall—respectful voices in which there was more than a tinge of the tension that had gripped Washington.

"Morning, Inspector!"..."How are you, Mr. Fowler?" ... "Hi, Dan!" ...

But cutting through these greetings came the shouted, scare-lines of street newsboys, wafted on the air from the street below through the open windows of the F. B. I. offices...

"Wuxtry! Wuxtry! Parazillan Ambassador Delivers Ultimatum To State Department! ... Don Pedro's Murder Termed Barbaric Outrage By Two European Dictators! ... Two U. S. Cruisers Speeding To Rio Paulo, Parazilla, To Protect American Citizens And Property!"

Dan Fowler, ace manhunter of the most brilliant and daring crew of crime-busters in the world, the Federal Bureau of Investigation— accelerated his pace. He rounded a turn in the corridor, rapped twice, sharply, on a door that bore the inscription: Office Of The Director.

His strong, browned hand twisted the knob and he strode into a small entry-room. An alert lad seated at a small desk nodded and jerked his head in the direction of an inner door.

"The Director is expecting you, Mr. Fowler."

Dan Fowler, Nemesis of five score of the most vicious racketeers ever to be put behind the bars of a prison cell, stopped before this second door, rapped again—but waited, this time.

"Come in!"

It was a tense, low voice that spoke; and the man Dan Fowler faced when he stepped noiselessly into the room and shut the door after him, was tense of face and eyes, lines of care and worry creasing his square, rugged face.

"Well, Dan? You've bean in touch with Key West?"

There was nothing in the face of the star investigator of the F. B. I. to indicate he had spent a sleepless night—racing over the mountainous West Virginia country in a plane, bisecting the north portion of Virginia at more than two hundred miles an hour, swirling down to a landing at the U. S. Army's Bolling Field, there to be whirled in a speeding armored car to the F.B.I. offices.

His clear, gray eyes and his fresh complexion bore no hint of the more than three hours of speedy but careful checking he had done on the international incident of but eight hours past in the Gulf of Mexico.

He extracted four sheets of closely typed lines from his inside pocket, placed them on the desk in front of his superior.

"Casey, of the Jacksonville field office, is in full charge, sir. The local police there, the Navy Department, the Coast Guard and the Narcotics. Division is trying to get a wedge in the case."

"That's out!" the Director snapped. "The uproar here in Washington is bad enough—with ambassadors tearing into the State Department in their shirt sleeves, Navy executives radioing instructions helter-skelter all over the world, all Army and Navy leaves canceled and the nation picking up each new rumor and blowing it into a balloon of panicky half-truths. At Key West, of all places, we must have level-headed thinking and calm, unbiased investigation!"

DAN FOWLER nodded. "Casey has his orders, sir. 'Crime on the High Seas' comes under our bureau. He has six crack agents with him at the Coast Guard basin, and the cooperation of the commandant there."

"Good." The Director snapped a look at his watch. "We're due for a talk with Cort Rappleyea, Assistant Secretary of State, at noon. Let's go over the groundwork of the case new."

"Right, sir." Fowler picked up the papers from the desk, ticked off some items, rapidly, the Director nodding as he digested each bit of information.

"Identity of CG-0412 established beyond question. It is the offending craft. Footprints on Deck of the Oro Del Mar coincide with those of certain members of the crew.

"Fingerprints of Lieutenant Dobsen, commanding CG-0412, developed from tin ascertained to have contained cocaine, and dropped by Dobsen in the main saloon of the Oro."

The Director frowned his impatience and stirred restlessly; but he didn't interrupt. Dan Fowler, he knew, wasted no time with anything that was non-essential. His chief bore with the peculiarly trivial matter of crew identification, for the moment.

"Four members of the Guard patrol have been identified by name," Fowler went on. "Personal identification by those aboard the Oro Del Mar is not so definite, however." Fowler raised his eyes to his chief s before be continued:

"Carlos Agramonte, Oro passenger, contends that guns, ammunition and two strange packages, alleged by the...

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